The dangerous bacteria Clostridium difficile spreads not only in hospitals but also in other health-care settings, causing infections and death rates to hit “historic highs,” U.S. health officials reported Tuesday.
“C. difficile is a deadly diarrheal infection that poses a significant threat to U.S. health care patients,” Ileana Arias, principal deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a morning news conference. “C. difficile is causing many Americans to suffer and die.”
The germ is linked to about 14,000 deaths in the United States every year. People most at risk from C. difficile are those who take antibiotics and also receive care in any medical facility.
“This failure is more difficult to accept because these are treatable, often preventable deaths,” Arias said. “We know what can be done to do a better job of protecting our patients.”
Much of the growth of this bacterial epidemic has been due to the overuse of antibiotics, the CDC noted in its March 6 report. Unlike healthy people, people in poor health are at
It’s been proven time and again, on back roads and superhighways: A seat belt can save a life in a car accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 15,000 lives are saved each year in the United States because drivers and their passengers were wearing seat belts when they were in accidents.
Seat Belt Safety: 5-Way Protection
“Seat belts prevent occupants of the vehicle from serious injury in five ways,” says Angela Osterhuber, director of the Pennsylvania Traffic Injury Prevention Project in Media, Pa. A seat belt:
- Keeps the occupants of the vehicle inside. “It’s clearly a myth that people are better off being thrown clear from the crash,” Osterhuber says. “People thrown from a vehicle are four times more likely to be killed than those who remain inside.”
- Restrains the strongest parts of the body. “Restraints are designed to contact your body at its strongest parts. For an older child and adult, these parts are the hips and shoulders, which is where the seat belt should be strapped,” Osterhuber says.
- Spreads out any force from the collision. “Lap-and-shoulder belts spread the force
Did you know that your body weight is approximately 60 percent water? Your body uses water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate its temperature and maintain other bodily functions. Because your body loses water through breathing, sweating, and digestion, it’s important to rehydrate by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water. The amount of water you need depends on a variety of factors, including the climate you live in, how physically active you are, and whether you’re experiencing an illness or have any other health problems.
Water Protects Your Tissues, Spinal Cord, and Joints
Water does more than just quench your thirst and regulate your body’s temperature; it also keeps the tissues in your body moist. You know how it feels when your eyes, nose, or mouth gets dry? Keeping your body hydrated helps it retain optimum levels of moisture in these sensitive areas, as well as in the blood, bones, and the brain. In addition, water helps protect the spinal cord, and it acts as a lubricant and cushion for your joints.
Water Helps Your Body Remove Waste
What is hypnosis, anyway? According to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, it is a tool that allows the mind to focus — similar to how a magnifying glass focuses and intensifies the sun’s rays. Unlike the popular myths, you’re not actually unconscious while in a hypnotic state, but fully awake and in a heightened state of concentration. There are several different ways that practitioners can help individuals who are under hypnosis: They may present ideas or suggestions, encourage patients to come up with mental images that illustrate positive change, or help them better understand their underlying motivations.
Need more convincing? Hypnosis is also recognized as a valid medical procedure by the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association. If you’re curious, here are just a few of the ways hypnosis can help your health:
Hypnosis for weight loss: Hypnosis can help people change their eating behaviors and drop the pounds. According to a Vanderbilt University review of the scientific literature, hypnosis works best for weight-loss when combined with a behavioral weight -management plan.
Hypnosis to quit smoking: At the 2011 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, Jose Maldonado, MD, associate professor
Does the World Health Organization’s statement that cell phones may cause cancerhave you thinking twice about making that phone call?
Of course it’s alarming to think that something that’s become such a can’t-live-without can be linked to brain cancer, but there’s a lot even the most cell phone-addicted people can do to minimize health risks.
Any potential links to cancer stem from the low levels of radiation cell phones emit. Lower your exposure to the radiation, and you’ll reduce the potential links to cancer or other health problems:
- Use a headset. Sounds obvious, but headsets emit much less radiation than cell phones do, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and they keep your cell phone away from your head. The farther away you are from a source of radiation, the less damage it can do.
- Text when you can. Your constantly texting teens are onto something: Cell phones use less energy (and emit less radiation) when you text than when you talk, says the EWG. Texting also keeps the radiation source farther away from your brain.
- Use cell phones for FYI-only calls. Don’t use your cell phone for that long overdue,
Cell phones may cause brain cancer, a panel of experts reporting to the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Tuesday.
After reviewing dozens of studies that explored a possible link between cancer and the ubiquitous hand-held phones, the experts classified cell phones as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and placed them in the same category as the pesticide DDT and gasoline engine exhaust.
The panel determined that an increased risk for glioma, a malignant form of brain cancer, appears associated with wireless phone use.
Globally, it’s estimated that 5 billion cell phones are in use. “The number of users is large and growing, particularly among young adults and children,” the International Agency for Research on Cancer said in a news release issued Tuesday.
The IARC made the announcement in Lyons, France, based on the work of 31 scientists from 14 countries. It will present its findings to the WHO, which may then issue its recommendations on safe cell phone use.
Experts said children are especially vulnerable.
“Children’s skulls and scalps are thinner. So the radiation can penetrate deeper into the brain of children and young adults. Their cells are dividing at a faster
Urban legends and health myths are certainly nothing new — we’re pretty sure even our Neanderthal ancestors passed some version of them around their cave fires. But the Internet has certainly helped outdated advice die hard, so it’s no wonder these fake facts keep popping up in our inboxes. We picked our favorites from such myth-busting sites as Snopes, the authors of Don’t Swallow Your Gum!: Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health, and more. Here’s why you should stop falling for these, once and for all:
Plucking a gray hair causes two to grow back.
The truth: It’s fine to tweeze that errant hair. Genetics plays a key role in when you go gray, regardless of how often you pluck. It can take six months from the time a hair falls out until it grows back long enough for you to notice it; during that time, you’ll automatically see more gray hair as part of the aging process, explains Snopes.com.
Antiperspirant deodorants cause breast cancer.
The truth: Going au naturel won’t protect your breasts from cancer. This mythprobably came about because some antiperspirants contain aluminum, which can show
Medical and public health groups are banding together to explain how global warming has taken a toll on human health and will continue to cause food-borne illnesses, respiratory problems, and deaths unless policy changes are enacted.
In a conference call with reporters, the heads of the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Public Health Association (APHA) joined with a pediatrician and a scientist to lay out what they say is a major public health issue: climate change caused by global warming.
The “evidence has only grown stronger” that climate change is responsible for an increasing number of health ills, including asthma, diarrheal disease, and even deaths from extreme weather such as heat waves, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the APHA.
For one, rising temperatures can mean more smog, which makes children with asthma sicker, explained pediatrician Dr. Perry Sheffield, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.
There is also evidence that pollen season is also getting longer, she said, which could lead to an increase in the number of people with asthma.
Holding a cell phone to your ear for a long period of time increases activity in parts of the brain close to the antenna, researchers have found.
Glucose metabolism — that’s a measurement of how the brain uses energy — in these areas increased significantly when the phone was turned on and muted, compared with when it was off, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and colleagues reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Although we cannot determine the clinical significance, our results give evidence that the human brain is sensitive to the effects of radiofrequency-electromagnetic fields from acute cell phone exposures,” co-author Dr. Gene-Jack Wang of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, where the study was conducted, told MedPage Today.
What We Know About Cell Phones and Cancer
Although the study can’t draw conclusions about long-term implications, other researchers are calling the findings significant.
“Clearly there is an acute effect, and the important question is whether this acute effect is associated with events that may be damaging to the brain or predispose to the development of future problems such as cancer as suggested by
Even within the normal range, higher bilirubin levels appear to be associated with reduced risks of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and death, a longitudinal, prospective analysis of a large database showed.
For every 0.1-mg/dL increase in bilirubin level, the rate of lung cancer dropped by 8 percent in men and 11 percent in women, according to Laura Horsfall, MSc, of University College London, and colleagues.
In addition, the same incremental increase in bilirubin was associated with a 6 percent decline in the rate of COPD and a 3 percent decline in mortality for both sexes, the researchers reported in the Feb. 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Based on our findings, bilirubin levels within the normal range appear to capture information about patients that may reflect a combination of environmental and genetically determined susceptibility to respiratory diseases,” they wrote.
Most people are familiar with bilirubin because of its role in jaundice — the yellowing of the skin that is sometimes seen in newborns but is also associated with liver disease.
Bilirubin is actually a byproduct of the turn over of red blood cells — the
Psychotic illness occurs significantly earlier among marijuana users, results of a meta-analysis suggest.
Data on more than 22,000 patients with psychosis showed an onset of symptoms almost three years earlier among users of cannabis compared with patients who had no history of substance use.
The age of onset also was earlier in cannabis users compared with patients in the more broadly characterized category of substance use, investigators reported online in Archives of General Psychiatry.
“The results of this study provide strong evidence that reducing cannabis use could delay or even prevent some cases of psychosis,” Dr. Matthew Large, of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and co-authors wrote in conclusion.
“Reducing the use of cannabis could be one of the few ways of altering the outcome of the illness because earlier onset of schizophrenia is associated with a worse prognosis and because other factors associated with age at onset, such as family history and sex, cannot be changed.”
Psychosis has a strong association with substance use. Patients of mental health facilities have a high prevalence of substance use, which also is more common in patients with schizophrenia compared with
Retired National Football League players who abused opioid painkillers while active were most likely to use and abuse the same drugs after leaving the sport, the results of a telephone survey and analysis found.
The survey found more than half of the retired NFL players interviewed used opioidpainkillers during their career. Of those, 71 percent reported misusing the drugs while playing, and 15 percent said they still abuse the prescription medication, Dr. Linda B. Cottler, of Washington University School of Medicine, and colleagues reported online in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
The former broadcaster and NY Giants great, Frank Gifford, said, “pro football is like nuclear warfare. There are no winners, only survivors.”
The findings from Cottler’s survey support Gifford’s assessment.
An analysis of survey data showed the rate of opioid misuse while the retired players were active in the NFL was roughly three times greater than the lifetime rate of nonmedical use of opioids in the general population of approximately the same age.
Misuse in the past 30 days in retired players was seven percent, versus less than two percent in adults 26 and older in the general population. Looking only at
The risk of death after head injury remained significantly increased for as long as 13 years, irrespective of the severity of the injury, results of a case-control study showed.
Overall, patients with a history of head injury had more than a twofold greater risk of death than did two control groups of individuals without head injury.
Among young adults, the risk disparity ballooned to more than a fivefold difference, Scottish investigators reported online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
“More than 40% of young people and adults admitted to hospital in Glasgow after a head injury were dead 13 years later,” Dr. Thomas M. McMillan, of the University of Glasgow, and coauthors wrote in the discussion of their findings. “This stark finding is not explained by age, gender, or deprivation characteristics.”
“As might be expected following an injury, the highest rate of death occurred in the first year after head injury,” they continued. “However, risk of death remained high for at least a further 12 years when, for example, death was 2.8 times more likely after head injury than for community controls.”
Previous studies of mortality after head injury have
Foreign-made jewelry is a potential source of lead exposure, according to public health officials.
A 1-year-old boy living in New York City had a rapid increase in blood lead levels, and the likely source of the exposure was traced to a Cambodian amulet made from knotted string and metallic beads, according to researchers from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the CDC.
Testing revealed that the beads contained 45 percent lead, the researchers reported in Jan. 28 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The boy had worn the amulet — “something to protect him,” his father said — since he was 3 months old, and had been seen putting it in his mouth.
“Healthcare providers and public health workers should consider traditional customs when seeking sources of lead exposure in Southeast Asian populations,” the authors wrote.
Healthcare professionals should ask parents — particularly from Southeast Asian families — about the use of amulets, they added, noting that educational efforts about the risk of lead poisoning from jewelry are needed for immigrant families.
An accompanying editorial note pointed out that the CDC recommends blood lead testing for internationally
Regular aerobic exercise such as walking may protect the memory center in the brain, while stretching exercise may cause the center — called the hippocampus — to shrink, researchers reported.
In a randomized study involving men and women in their mid-60s, walking three times a week for a year led to increases in the volume of the hippocampus, which plays an important role in memory, according to Dr. Arthur Kramer, of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Ill., and colleagues.
On the other hand, control participants who took stretching classes saw drops in the volume of the hippocampus, Kramer and colleagues reported online in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The findings suggest that it’s possible to overcome the age-related decline in hippocampal volume with only moderate exercise, Kramer told MedPage Today, leading to better fitness and perhaps to better spatial memory. “I don’t see a down side to it,” he said.
The volume of the hippocampus is known to fall with age by between 1 percent and 2 percent a year, the researchers noted, leading to impaired memory and increased risk for dementia.
But animal research suggests that exercise
An accumulation of fluid in the brain, a condition called posttraumatic hydrocephalus, has delayed U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ transfer to an inpatient rehabilitation facility.
Although the Arizona congresswoman was transferred last Friday to Memorial Hermann healthcare system in Houston, where she was scheduled to enter The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR), she was admitted instead to the hospital’s neurological intensive care unit.
One of the doctors involved in her care in Houston, trauma surgeon John Holcomb, MD, said that a drain had been inserted to release a buildup of fluid. Until that drain is removed or a permanent shunt is implanted, Giffords must remain in the neuro ICU.
Reid Thompson, MD, chairman of neurological surgery at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said in an e-mail to ABC News and MedPage Today that fluid buildup is a very common problem in neurosurgery.
“In the setting of a gunshot wound, and recent surgery, it would not be unusual to build up fluid and possibly have fluid leak out — raising the risk for an infection (meningitis),” wrote Thompson, who is not involved in Giffords’ care.
The timing of the drain placement, he said, suggests
A federal judge ruled Monday that the new U.S. health-care reform law is unconstitutional, saying the federal government has no authority to require citizens to buy health insurance.
That provision is a cornerstone of the new legislation, signed into law in March by President Barack Obama.
The judge’s decision was not unexpected, and both supports and opponents of the legislation anticipate the validity of the new health law ultimately will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The ruling was handed down by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush who had seemed sympathetic to the state of Virginia’s case when oral arguments were heard in October, the Associated Press reported.
Last week, White House officials said a negative ruling would not affect the implementation of the law because its major provisions don’t take effect until 2014, the AP reported.
Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, a Republican, had filed a lawsuit in defense of a new Virginia law barring the federal government from requiring state residents to buy health insurance. He argued that it is unconstitutional for the federal law to force citizens to buy
What is medical identity theft? In this serious and growing problem, someone else uses your personal information to obtain medical goods or services. Medical identity theft affects consumers, health care providers, and insurance organization. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), medical identity theft accounts for about 3 percent of all identity theft, and the World Privacy Forum claims it’s the most difficult form of identity theft to correct.
When you are the victim of medical identity theft, incorrect information about diagnoses and treatments may appear on your medical records, potentially affecting your health care providers’ decisions about your care and treatment. Also, in addition to paying for treatment you didn’t receive, in some cases you might be denied treatment or coverage because of fraudulent medical or insurance information.
But there is some good news: HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations and the Identity Theft Protection Act, already in place, give you many of the tools you need to get errors corrected at your doctor’s office and with your insurance provider. Of course, like any crime, you’re better off preventing it from happening in the first place.
Spotting Medical Identity Theft
To look and feel your best at every age, it’s important to make smart lifestyle and health choices. Here are six simple things that women can do every day (or with regularity) to ensure good health:
Health Tip #1: Eat a healthy diet. “You want to eat as close to a natural foods diet as you can,” says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. That means a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. Eat whole grains and high-fiber foods and choose leaner cuts of meat, fish, and poultry. Include low-fat dairy products in your diet as well — depending on your age, you need between 800 and 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily to help avoid osteoporosis, Dr. Novey says. Avoid foods and beverages that are high in calories, sugar, salt, and fat.
Healthy eating will help you maintain a proper weight for your height, which is important because being overweight can lead to a number of illnesses. Looking for a healthy snack? Try some raw vegetables, such as celery, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, or zucchini with dip made from low-fat yogurt.
If you are what you eat, it follows that you want to stick to a healthy diet that’s well balanced. “You want to eat a variety of foods,” says Stephen Bickston, MD, AGAF, professor of internal medicine and director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Virginia Commonwealth University Health Center in Richmond. “You don’t want to be overly restrictive of any one food group or eat too much of another.”
Healthy Diet: The Building Blocks
The best source of meal planning for most Americans is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food Pyramid. The pyramid, updated in 2005, suggests that for a healthy diet each day you should eat:
- 6 to 8 servings of grains. These include bread, cereal, rice, and pasta, and at least 3 servings should be from whole grains. A serving of bread is one slice while a serving of cereal is 1/2 (cooked) to 1 cup (ready-to-eat). A serving of rice or pasta is 1/2 cup cooked (1 ounce dry). Save fat-laden baked goods such as croissants, muffins, and donuts for an occasional treat.
- 2 to 4 servings of fruits and 4